A Dylan Cover a Day: Hard Rain’s a-gonna Fall.

By Tony Attwood

I was hoping that someone might have done a cover of that old stomper, “Had a dream about you baby” but no one has – or at least if they have I can’t find a copy on the internet to offer unto you.  But then last time I checked it wasn’t on BobDylan.com either and maybe that’s where the cover artists go a-looking.  They really ought to use Untold Dylan.

So I keep meandering down the list looking for a song that the cover artists might have taken on in some new and meaningful manner.  And I came to Hard Rain, and stumbled upon one of weirdest covers of all time.  Don’t worry, there’s no test at the end so you can turn off after 30 seconds.  The audience however quite liked it.

And if you want some more

I wonder what Bob thinks.

Indeed the point about all these articles is not that I am saying that these are my favourite versions, or even that they are musically exquisite, but rather in most cases they have informed me about the possibilities in the music – possibilities I most likely have never discovered or would ever have discovered on my own .

Moving on, Eliza Gilkyson takes us on a different route.  And this really leads me to the other key point in all this – many commentators write and speak as if all that matters are the lyrics.  I don’t think Dylan feels this at all, and I can assert I most certainly don’t.   The lyrics become the bedrock of the possibilities for the music that can emerge from the song.  Indeed why else would Bob himself have created so many versions of his songs?  Yes sometimes he changes the lyrics (Tangled up in blue is perhaps the most famous example) but just think how often he then changes the music, taking the lyrics as the bedrock and then moving the music on.

There’s a lovely extra in this version, and that is the harmonies which are exquisite and from which I do, even after all these years, get more from the song.  For example, in listening to the “who did you meet verse”, I can feel tears coming to my eyes… over the top I know but that’s how it goes.

I have found an instrumental of the song by DeJohnette – Gredadier – Medeski – Scofield which for me goes the wrong way into another universe where the song has no meaning at all.  You can go and find it if you want to but I’m helping you.  I really don’t like it.

And to clear my head of that I’m going to have to bring forward my favourite, or one of my favourite versions of the song – it ended one of the series of Peaky Blinders, one of my favourite TV series of recent years.

What makes it so good… oh I’ve thought about that so much.  The vocal harmonies are delicious, the percussion is perfectly arranged, and above all, it retains the understatement of Dylan’s original, even when there is a build-up of the instrumentation.   There is a sort of galloping punchiness to the piece that just works so perfectly.

But if you feel that the song’s message is so strong, so vital and so important that it really does need to be shouted from the rooftops then you’ll probably like Charlie Daniels.

But for every musical route in one direction, there is always the chance of going the other way.  I’ve only just found this version with which I will conclude my meander today.  It is not perfect, it is not exactly to my taste, but it offers me new insights through the harmonies of the voices, and the dedication to keeping the guitar part as simple as they can.

There is also a beautiful way in which they often hesitate for a quarter or even an eighth of a beat at the end of each line.  It is that sort of inventiveness that I enjoy – just to know someone out there is actually thinking musically and artistically ….   If you are going to be an artist that has to be the road map you follow.  Just doing it straight doesn’t work; not in this world.

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Untold Dylan was created in 2008 and is published daily – currently twice a day –  sometimes more, sometimes less.  Details of some of our series are given at the top of the page and in the Recent Posts list, which appears both on the right side of the page and at the very foot of the page (helpful if you are reading on a phone).  Some of our past articles which form part of a series are also included on the home page.

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1 Response to A Dylan Cover a Day: Hard Rain’s a-gonna Fall.

  1. Andrew Davies says:

    Marlin or Gylkyson for the win here? A narrow win for Gilkyson for me, but thanks for pointing me towards both.

    And keep Gilkyson in mind when you get to ‘Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts’. Tom Russell’s version uses three different voices to swing the narrative perspective between characters. It’s a very effective approach (I reckon). Eliza voices the gals. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xk4RV474oSA

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